By investing in a training and recruiting program, Richland County aims to create a talent pipeline to increase the number and diversity of software engineers and meet local demand in the area’s growing technology industry.

Create Opportunity Columbia – a public–private partnership between Richland County, the City of Columbia, Midlands Technical College and other corporate partners – is designed to train people from non-technical backgrounds. Interested individuals can apply online at

Participants enter the program through an aptitude-based screening that identifies a person’s ability to become a successful software engineer. No prior knowledge, educational background or experience is required. Individuals undergo an intense, six-month training followed by a two-year, paid software development apprenticeship with local employers.

The partnership is shared with Catalyte, a national leader in workforce data science. Catalyte’s talent development platform provides the initial screening, technology infrastructure, curriculum and data to drive the program. Based in Baltimore, Catalyte has two decades of experience in developing software engineering talent in large cities nationwide.

“We know that there is a wellspring of untapped technology talent in the Midlands region,” said Jacob Hsu, CEO of Catalyte. “With our talent transformation technology, combined with the knowledge, expertise and reach of trusted, local partners, we know that we can do here in Columbia what we have across the country for 20 years: produce high-potential developers, from any background, who will help local businesses and government agencies shine on the national and international stages.”

Richland County and the City of Columbia are providing $65,000 in funding for the program.

“Richland County is committed to fostering diverse, equitable and inclusive opportunities for our citizens and employers,” said Paul Livingston, Richland County Council Chair. “We are excited to have Create Opportunity as a community partner to further those values and benefit the region’s technology sector.”

Create Opportunity Columbia’s mission aligns with local economic development objectives by using a capable technology workforce to fuel the growth of existing employers and the recruitment of new employers to the region.

“The City of Columbia is excited about the opportunities this program brings to our citizens and for economic growth in the region,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said. “Building a sustainable pipeline of local, motivated and diverse software engineers provides a competitive advantage to attracting and retaining employers in the area.”

Midlands Technical College (MTC) is the program partner for the 26-week training that will prepare participants for a two-year apprenticeship.

“We are pleased about the impact this will have on our region’s economy,” said Dr. Ron Rhames, the college’s president. “MTC is proud to be a part of this effort to grow the software engineering workforce that the Midlands community needs in order to be competitive.”

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